Safety experts warn of dangers for those sleeping in bins

22 December 2020

With the winter weather now producing freezing nights, the plight of the homeless is once again under the spotlight but the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned that there are more dangers than the plummeting temperatures.

It points out that waste management company Biffa recorded 101 “near misses” or encounters with people either sleeping in or near its bins during April to December last year.

Furthermore, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reported that at least seven people have been killed over the last five years after falling asleep in a bin and then being crushed in a bin lorry.

Biffa joined the Open University and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) earlier this year to launch a report which showed that the number of rough sleepers sheltering in bins had risen in the last five years.

“Based on a survey of 57 waste disposal companies and councils,” IOSH said, “the report showed that rough sleepers are typically discovered inside closed containers during cold weather in secluded urban areas, though people have increasingly been found sheltering in bins in towns and villages as the homelessness crisis has worsened.”

Biffa’s Brian Shepherdson said that this is the ideal time to raise awareness of this very real risk affecting some of the most vulnerable people in society as well as, on occasion, late-night revellers.

About 1 in 10 cases of a person found sheltering in a bin involved a person that had been on a night out, according to the report.

IOSH has said that those responsible for large waste bins should lock containers where possible, try to store them in a well-lit, secure area and report any instances of people sleeping in or near waste containers.

They should also watch out for stacked boxes and pallets (which could be used as a step up to a container) and for open lids that are normally closed.

Biffa urges anyone with concerns that people are sleeping in or around their bins should contact the national rough sleeping service StreetLink, either online or by calling its 24/7 hotline number 0300 500 0914.